Letters on the Low Turnout at the Galactica Reunion in 1993

First Prepared: March 14, 1995
Last Revised: August 1, 1995
Maintained by John Larocque

This document is ©2005, John Larocque. All rights reserved.

This document collects together several letters regarding the low turn-out at the Battlestar Galactica 15 Yahren Reunion, which was held at the Universal City Hilton in Los Angeles from October 13-15, 1993. These events led up to the SF convention Con Rad, also held at the same location from October 27-29, 1995.

These include:
1. Two letters from Dee Jay Driscoll, the convention organizer
2. Two letters from Mark Semich
3. Comments from others who attended or who were turned away from the convention
4. Juan Aquinde's apology on behalf of the Hilton, as it appeared in Starlog #216 (August 1995)

1. Two Letters from Dee Jay Driscoll

a) Letter sent to Galactica #19

[ The following is the complete text of the letter Dee Jay Driscoll sent to Galactica #19 (available from Clean Slate Press), which was also posted to the Battlestar Galactica Mailing List on January 6, 1995. Dee Jay was the chief organizer of the Battlestar Galactica 15th Yahren Reunion. ]

First off, let me start by sincerely thanking each and every one of you for taking the time to attend the Battlestar Galactica Fifteen Yahren Reunion. We on the convention committee enjoyed the opportunity of working with you all in trying got make the Reunion as positive and fun an experience as was possible. From the feedback I have received, a wonderful time was had by all who managed to find us!

Several folks have called to ask for an explanation as to the unbelievably small turnout for such a widely publicized event. After returning from L.A. I have had to fight off the effects of a rather nasty "bug" and so I apologize for the late timing of this reply. I had also tried to contact the over 90 individual sources for the anticipated media coverage of the L.A. area that had been set up weeks before the convention. The wildfires in and around the area have, understandably, distracted the newspapers, radio and television stations, et al, from returning my enquiring phone calls.

A random sampling has, however, confirmed our suspicions that our media/publicity sources had been negated by the switchboard at the Universal City Hilton Hotel. After receiving their Press Kits that had been mailed to them three weeks in advance of the event, those media sources polled have, so far, stated that when they contacted the Hilton to set up coverage they were informed by the switchboard that the Reunion had been canceled and/or moved to another unnamed, unknown hotel.

For weeks before the event I had received frantic phone calls from fans, guests and even The Sci-Fi Channel stating that the Hilton had told them that 1: they had no information regarding the Reunion, 2: the Reunion had been cancelled and/or moved to an unknown location. We had a signed contract with the Hilton for months, and continuous contact with them; they were well aware of who we were, when our dates were, as well as our plans/diagrams for utilization of convention space while there. After each of these events, we immediately contacted the hotel and were assured that "an error had taken place at the switchboard and that they would deal with it immediately" by the Sales Manager.

I personally mailed flyers to conventions and Science-fiction/Media advertisement sources around the world for over a year. This planet was effectively papered with flyers regarding the Reunion. The Flyers prominently displayed the name of the Hilton hotel and the dates. Those persons who would not wish to call a contact number in Seattle, would call the hotel for further information.

I have received well over 100 phone calls since the convention from shocked and angry fans who had wanted desperately to attend the Reunion and had been told by the Hilton that it had been canceled and/or moved to another site or date. My answering machines had announced the number of the Hilton when I left for LA and I counted the continuous hang-ups on the filled-up tape when I returned, so there was no doubt that the contact number for the Reunion had been advertised and utilized by those wishing to confirm our existence.

After over a year of hard work, the communications breakdown came when anyone; a fan who wished to attend, a Media/Press source who wished to give us publicity/coverage, or an invited guest who wished to join us called the Hilton and were told the above mentioned rhetoric and abruptly hung-up on or patched through to a number that didn't exist! This happened several times during the weekend and, I have been informed, to some of our guests.

Dirk Benedict and Peter Borkos, for example, were both turned away on separate occasions Saturday morning by the Front Desk and told that the Reunion wasn't there (right around the corner!) Thank goodness for intelligent bellmen who informed them otherwise! Other invited guests have since let me know that they didn't attend because, they, too were turned away by the Hilton when they tried to call us for further information. They were sorry to have missed it.

During the weekend we on the Con Staff dealt with these mix-ups on (it seemed) an hourly basis. We had phone lines into the Operations Office, the Registration Desk, and the Green Room. When the phone calls to these lines would mysteriously cease we would ask at the Front Desk what the "frack" was going on and they would be allowed to go through for a little while and then stop again.

I was informed by the Front Desk that I had received several faxes throughout the weekend, all of which vanished before I could read them. They have all remained "missing." We on the Con Staff have run conventions for well over a decade and have never before experienced the frustration of having to beg for hours for our own corresondence, and then never got!

There were 17 documented attempts to break into the Dealer's and Display Area Ballroom. Our security staff was up continuously on Friday and Satruday nights keeping these people away. When we went to the Hotel Security for help and to report what was going on, we were informed that we would have to pay them money if additional security was desired. On Monday morning, the Sales Manager attempted to laugh off our concerns as to the state of the level of security at the Hilton. He informed us that these breakins were a normal occurrence in LA and took place in every hotel. Right. Interesting attitude...

Hopefully, this explains just a little of the numb look of consternation that some of you may have noted during the Reunion on the faces of the Con Staff. The attendees and guests were kept unaware of our problems in dealing with the hotel as we wanted to make everyone's time at the Reunion as enjoyable as possible. It just seems like such a shame that, due to the ineptitude of a few hotel people, our charities will suffer. We have barely enough from the paid memberships, T-shirts, Program Books and video tape sales to break even and pay for the expenses incurred.

We have been advised to seek remuneration through legal recourse, but this may cause even more trouble in the long run. (We on the Seattle Con Staff don't think much of lawyers and really believe it would not be nice to sue the Hilton! I guess we were all raised wrong, but there it is...) We are, of course, contacting the Hilton Corporate Headquarters in Chicago and in Beverly Hills to see if they would be interested in "doing the right thing" by us and making a donation to our charities in lieu of the estimated $80,000 worth of lost revenue that the incompetence of the Universal City Hiltons' switchboard cost us over the Reunion weekend.

In anticipation of providing documentation of our allegations to Hilton Headquarters we have been collecting information from as many sources as possible. Simply put, we need your help. If you, your family members, your friends, whoever, have any information that may be of use in proving our complaints, we would be most grateful if you would briefty state any and all problems you/they had in dealing with the Universal City Hilton, either in attempted contact/s or personal service. Please write us with any information regarding this matter as soon as possible, as we anticipate contacting Hilton Corporate Headquarters shortly. Enclose a business-sized SASE if you would like a reply.

In closing, let me again extend our deep appreciation to each and every one of you for a quite excellent time. I have been asked by some of you, as well as other fans who were denied the opportunity of meeting our fine guests, if we could possilby do this again sometime... in another hotel, of course! (Especially as the show may be revived!?) I would appreciate any feedback on this, whatsoever. The heartsickness experienced by those of us on the Con Staff has rapidly been replaced by deep anger. Let me personally assure you that there are definitely a lot more than 300 fans of the show and that each of our guests deserved to have had more than the attendance "permitted" by the Hilton to hear them speak.

I have assured the cast and crew of BSG that the Reunion's contact number and P.O. Box will remain open and available indefinitely as a "clearinghouse of information" to and from LA. Any news on future Galactica projects will be posted as soon as available. (SASE's gratefully accepted!) So, tell your friends that BSG fandom lives and will continue to live (Nice try, Hilton!) And thank you again so very much for your time and consideration in these matters.

Bless you all and keep the vipers flying.

b) March 24, 1995 letter posted to the Battlestar Galactica Mailing List, in response to Reunion thread posted on Usenet

Hello, sir! This is a blanket response to several pages of Internet issues that have just been faxed to me. I'm Deejay Driscoll, and I ran the 15 Yahren Reunion of Battlestar Galactica in October of 1993 down at the Universal City Hilton and Towers in Los Angeles. Since that time I have been in contact with the Hilton regarding their most unprofessional conduct re: communications difficulties before, during and after the convention.

After eventually making contact with the General Manager (Big High-Muckety-Muck, El Supremo) Mr. Juan Aquinde of the Hilton, I was assured by him personally that he and the rest of Upper Management, knew nothing of us or of the difficulties we encountered with his staff.

After having sent him a vast amount of documentation accrued from fans, guests and media sources, and he informing us that the Pediatric AIDS Foundation (one of the Reunion's charities) was a personal charity of his own, he flew up to meet us in Seattle late last year. He brought with him a letter of apology that will be published in Starlog Magazine along with an advertisement for our next event. He also brought along a contract that we have recently just signed (after months of negotiation) regarding another event that we will be publicizing within the next few weeks. The Universal City Hilton and Towers (without having been forced to address our concerns in a court of law) has eventually made good its claim of last year to "make things right for us."

It has agreed to allow us to hold another convention at the Hilton at no charge for the function space, has offered a 500-person, sit down Banquet, a catered Green Room for our media guests, and greatly reduced charge of hotel rooms for the fans. We on the Con Comm (still all volunteers) have decided to pass on our good fortune to the fans. The Sci-Fi Channel has not seemed too interested in joining up with us again (since they encountered difficulties with the Hilton as well and seem to want to lay the entire blame for the fiasco on us.) We will, therefore, be offering this event in conjunction with Sci-Fi Universe Magazine. The Banquet will consist of dinner and the results of the Sci-Fi Universe Magazine's Readers' Poll Awards.

I will send you a flyer with more info and the Progress Report for all attendees of the Reunion that I will be mailing out next week. I am also quite happy to reply to any concerns you may have regarding our negotiations with the Universal City Hilton.

Thank-you for your enthusiasm, Deejay (Keep the Vipers Flyin'!)

2. Two Letters from Mark Semich

a) June 14, 1994 letter posted to the Battlestar Galactica Mailing List

I just got off the phone with the woman who organized the Galactica 15 Yahren Reunion... I asked if there was any further news about a new movie/series, and was told that Fox (who had been interested) recently told Glen Larson that they were now a litle wary about doing it, as the convention had such a low turn-out.

The con had been extensively advertised in Starlog, on The Sci-Fi Channel, and in many other places as well. Unfortunately, the Hilton (host of the con) had actually been telling people that there was no convention, that it had been cancelled, and had been turning away fans and guests at the door and on the telephone.

John Colicos had been planning on attending, but was told by the hotel that there was no con. Dirk Benedict, when he walked into the hotel following his mega-long drive, walked to the desk and asked "where the Green Room" was. He was told that he must have made a mistake, he was at the wrong hotel. Fortunately, on his way out the door back home, he caught sight of some guy in a Colonial Warrior's uniform, and came back in.

Apparently, there was some awards ceremony going on at the hotel, and middle management didn't want a bunch of skiffy fans around making things look bad.

Since the Hilton may very well have killed the plans for a new Galactica series, in order to avoid a lawsuit from Glen Larson, they have agreed to host another convention for free (not free for us to get in, just free rent to the con people.) This one will be on October 27-29, 1995, and both Universal and The Sci-Fi Channel will be involved. Many of the same guests (and more) will be in attendence, and it will "have more than just Galactica" (i.e. Galacticon plus a "mainstream sci-fi con" (is that an oxymoron?))

b) November 11, 1994 letter posted to the Battlestar Galactica Mailing List

Not only was the hotel denying the existence of the convention to phone-callers, they were also denying it to guests at the desk. John Colicos was one of those who went out of his way to attend the reunion convention, only to be turned away by the hotel management. "Convention? There's no convention here..." Unfortunately, he believed them and left. Dirk Benedict was also told at the desk that there was no convention. He was on his way out the door to go back home when he saw a fan in a Galactica jacket walking down the hall... Apparently, there were also a few hundred fans turned away, and again, that doesn't count those who were turned away over the phone.

And yes, at the con, Glen Larson announced that Fox was interested in a revival. Fox had stated that it was the low turnout an the convention that turned them off to the idea. In order to avoid a lawsuit from Larson, the hotel offered the con organizers free usage of the hotel for another con -- hence the 1995 convention (i.e. take II.)

I seem to remember that the reason the hotel was trying to stifle the Galactica con was that they also had some posh VIP wedding going on, and didn't want the Fannish Element to upset the wedding party.

I agree, if it were up to me, I'd certainly chose a different hotel for the next con :-)

3. Comments from others who attended the reunion

a) November 11, 1994 letter from David Damico, posted to the Battlestar Galactica Mailing List

As I am just an observer and provider of this mail list for a friend, I will keep my comments short. My friend, who went to the Battlestar Reunion last year, commented to me that the reason for the con's low attendance was mainly due to the way in which the hotel handeled the arrangements. He said the hotel was actually denying the con's existance to all out of state callers and was generally uncooperative. This alone could dissuade people from attending.

b) November 19, 1994 letter from Mike from Maryland, posted to the Battlestar Galactica Mailing List

After over a year I still can't seem to get over the attitude of the Universal City Hilton. I can still remember sitting at the Hilton's bar and spotting the first BG fan to be outfitted as a Colonial Warrior. It was a perfect replica of the original uniforms, right down to the Laser pistol When the manager on duty at the time saw this guy, he immediately hurried over to the bartender and said, "call security"! All because of a silly old prop that a three year old could tell wasn't a real gun. That occured the day before the reunion was set to begin. I guess that was one of the catalysts for the Hilton management's anal retentiveness. No wonder they turned people away. Even the bartender had no idea there was going to be a reunion (if the bartender doesn't know, nobody does.) I bet those jerks at the Hilton still probably don't know that they wrecked just about every chance the show ever had of making a comeback. From the time I hit that hotel's front door I couldn't obtain a sentence, not one sentence of info regarding the reunion from anyone. I kind of just sat at the bar and waited 'till it looked like something was going to happen somewhere. OK, enough about those degenerates. Sorry about subjecting all of you to my complaints, but I find it healthy to vent my frustration on this subject to the list.

c) March 19, 1995 letter sent to the compilation editor, and posted to the Battlestar Galactica Mailing List

[ This letter was written by the legendary Usenet personality "Gharlane of Eddore." Gharlane of Eddore possessed an extensive knowledge of both media and written science fiction, and once wrote to me that he was a paid researcher on behalf of Universal Studios in its infamous lawsuit with Fox studios in 1978. ]

You're going to laugh at this, but I was in El Lay that weekend, and called over to the Hilton from LAX on Saturday afternoon, and was specifically told there was "No Sci-Fi convention" and "No TV show convention," and "No 'Battlestar Galactica,' whatever that is, convention." The guy got really snotty when I kept asking for the convention by different names, like I had to be some kind of retard who wouldn't just go away.

Even though I'm not what you'd call a "fan" of the show, I'd have paid for a one-day membership and been glad to hit the dealers' room and a couple of Q/A sessions... so put me down among the P.O.'d fen.

Sure, it's a mediocre show, but that doesn't give some desk dweeb in a tie the right to decide that I can't visit a con that's paying his asshole salary, right?

I'll look forward to hearing how the next one goes!

4. Apology from Universal City Hilton and Towers

July 15, 1995

Membership of the Galactica Reunion
Guests of the Galactica Reunion
Members of the Media
Readers of Starlog Magazine

Belatedly, the management and staff of the Universal City Hilton & Towers would like to take this opportunity to say thank you for your patronage of the hotel during the Galactica Reunion, October 15, 16, and 17, 1993.

We would also like to apologize for any miscommunication and inconvenience you might have experienced during your stay at the Universal City Hilton & Towers. Please be aware that the staff of the Galactica Reunion was not responsible for the communications difficulties experienced prior to and during the Event.

We look forward to providing excellence in service and accommodations to you at any future events which might be scheduled at our facility.

Sincerely, Universal City Hilton & Towers,
Juan Aquinde